One of the most significant improvements in downtown Rock Hill in recent history was the demolition of the Red Coach Inn. Now, rising from the rubble of that troubled inn, will be an impressive townhouse project aimed at young buyers.
Even now that it is gone, the Red Coach is not likely to be forgotten any time soon by residents of the nearby East Town neighborhood. For years, those neighbors had complained about the rampant drug use, prostitution and other unsavory activities at the inn, which had served as low-cost rental housing for transients.
In 2005, the City Council authorized the Rock Hill Economic Development Corp. to buy the two-story inn on East Main Street for $205,000 from the bank that had foreclosed on it. Eight months later, RHEDC spent another $35,000 to raze the buildings and make the site ready for redevelopment.
This month, a team of developers experienced in rehabbing old houses and building new ones in Charlotte's trendy NoDa district broke ground on the site. Fourteen townhouses priced in the high $230,000s are planned for the development that will go by the name of Renaissance Square.
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The development team, ColdSprings Carolina, hopes to start construction next month, and the units will go up in phases over the next 18 months. The first buyers could move in as early as next spring or summer.
Designers hope to cater to younger buyers, sometimes referred to as "DINKS" -- short for "double income, no kids." That's the same group that was attracted to NoDA.
Downtown itself will be part of the draw, providing access to bars, restaurants and shops within walking distance. With luck, both downtown merchants and Renaissance Square residents will benefit from this symbiotic relationship. More downtown residents could spark new investment and new attractions that, in turn, could attract even more people downtown and boost activity there.
Renaissance Square should complement the renovated Cotton Factory on White Street, another important downtown development. In fact, some of the 200-plus employees working at the Cotton Factory site might choose to live in the new townhouses. That certainly would cut down on commuting time.
City officials long have talked about a tipping point when the right mix of residential and retail development will turn downtown into a thriving commercial center. While Renaissance Square alone might not provide that momentum, it is almost certain to tip the scales in the right direction.